Years ago, wooden crates were the primary method of packaging Florida citrus, adorned with brightly colored labels and these days collectible items for those who desire nostalgic Florida art.
As a Florida native, I am culturally drawn to anything related to citrus – the vibrant orange, yellow and pink colors, the scent of orange blossoms or even the simplest pleasure of peeling a fresh, juicy Florida orange. Walking through a citrus grove is like taking a stroll into my past. There’s nothing quite like the sun soaked view of a Florida orange grove. It’s both familiar and magically intoxicating.
Years ago, wooden crates were the primary method of packaging and shipping citrus, adorned with brightly colored labels. Pasted on these wooden boxes, 10” X 11” labels or 5 ½” X 11” strips were placed on crates to identify the brand. Vintage citrus label art has become a passion, hobby and even a business for many avid fans.
Citrus originally came to Florida courtesy of Spanish explorers. In 1493, Christopher Columbus brought citrus to the New World. But Ponce de Leon sailed with Columbus and is credited as the first European to explore Florida in 1513, bringing with him citrus seeds and planting them near (what has become) the settlement of St. Augustine. Spaniards and native Indians continued to grow and cultivate the fruit, while citrus thrived in Florida’s warm climate and sandy soil.
But it took another 300 years before citrus became an industry. By then, newly arriving homesteaders were relocating to the state, planting citrus around the family homestead. Pioneer entrepreneurs began selling the fruit, then bringing it to a common location to be transported by steamships. Steamers collected barrels of fruit at various ports along Florida’s coasts and waterways. As the railroad industry became established, it was able to ship to emerging, new markets throughout North America.